So August….quite a month! Rich finished his temporary car job, we packed up our apartment in Valby, stored our belongings in a relative’s garage and headed off to England with three suitcases and four outfits for four weddings over four weeks. We left, not knowing where we going to be living on our return. We had come to the end of our Valby tenancy and despite two months of apartment-searching, we had yet to find the perfect long-term home. I am happy to say, two weeks into our holiday, we found somewhere, did a Facetime tour via my cousin and signed the contract soon after. We move next week and are staying with relatives in the meantime, who have been incredibly generous helping us out. Apartment-searching in Copenhagen is quite hard work and requires you to search a few times a day, call as soon as you see something that matches your criteria and make a snap decision – that’s if the landlord wants you. It’s so competitive they can be picky who they choose as tenants. So it was a huge relief to have got that sorted.

So onto the fun stuff. Four weddings and a nephew! We were incredibly lucky to be invited to these wonderful celebrations and it timed perfectly, with being in between apartments and jobs for Rich. We were able to stay with Richie’s parents in Sheffield in between all the events, which Lydia loved and it made our stay so relaxed.

Wedding number one was my university friends Tori and Abe who both went to Durham University and ended up getting together years after leaving. The wedding reception was held at Tori’s family home and it was a beautiful setting. Lots of champagne, delicious food, hilarious speeches and a great live band made it a fun-filled day with my uni girls. It was the first time in seven months that Rich and I had spent an evening together toddler-free, so it’s fair to say we partied hard.

Wedding number two was that of my younger brother Rob and new sister-in-law Sophie at the wonderful Priory Cottages in Wetherby. We all stayed on site in the cottages and enjoyed a weekend of family fun. My Dad took the service (he’s a Bishop for those not in the know); my younger sister Izzy did a reading, Lydia was a flower girl and I was unofficial videographer. This was my idea, as a gift to Rob and Sophie as they didn’t want to spend the money on a wedding video, so I hired a Canon C100 MKII and did my first wedding shoot – whilst wearing heels, drinking wine and enjoying myself. It was pretty special being able to see my brother and Sophie get ready before the service and capture their day. Lydia was just incredible from start to finish and walked down the aisle holding my Dad’s hand which just made my heart melt. Danish traditions included a mini bottle of schnapps for each guest and the customary cutting of the groom’s socks. This quirky tradition occurs late in the evening, as everyone is merry and dancing. The groom’s friends and family lift him up, take off his shoes and cut off the end of his socks. It’s apparently to make sure the groom won’t walk off with any other woman. My brother-in-law and Richie also had the same thing done to them, by our Danish relatives and it always causes much amusement and confusion! I caught this on film and can’t wait to edit it.

The day after the wedding, we got on a flight to Italy. Wedding number three was in Varenna, Lake Como. We decided last year, even before Denmark plans, to make this our main family holiday, along with Richie’s parents and his sister and family. We had a wonderful villa in Menaggio that was perfect for Lydia and her cousin Sadie to play in. Swimming every day, walks around the town, pizza, ice cream and prosecco made it the perfect wind-down. It also gave Rich and I the headspace to search and find our new apartment while we were here. When it came to the wedding, Rich and I hopped on the ferry to Varenna to enjoy another toddler-free afternoon and night celebrating the marriage of Richie’s school friend Charlie to the lovely Sophie. The setting was incredible, the food was typical Italian –  divine and lots of it, and the wines matched it perfectly. Their wedding photographer was the brilliant Jon from S6 Photography, who also shot our wedding so I know their pictures are going to look stunning.

Apartment-searching with a view.

After 10 days on Lake Como, we headed back to England for more friend and family catch ups and then the drive to Durham for wedding number four! Lydia was invited to this wedding but we decided to have a final night off and save her from any more travel. Ben and Stephanie also went to Hatfield College, Durham and it’s where they met. So it was very fitting for them to return, as they became husband and wife. The Castle is a college within Durham University and was always a rival of Hatfield College, which is just around the corner. So whenever we went to the Castle as students, it was to sneak in when we weren’t meant to, or during a bar crawl. So this was the first time I actually got to appreciate the beauty and scale of the place. The ceremony was held in the gardens and the reception in the Great Hall, where students are lucky enough to eat their meals every day. It was a day filled with memories, wonderful touches and a first-dance that would give Strictly contestants a run for their money!

You are never far from a rower in Durham.

With the final wedding over by 28th August, it was time for Rich to get ready to start his new job on 1st September. But there was just one more celebration that I couldn’t miss and I stayed back an extra week with Lydia. My older sister Charlotte, who couldn’t make my brother’s wedding because of an imminent arrival, gave birth to a beautiful boy called Finn Alexander, just in time for me to visit him. In a fitting Danish tribute, Finn is my Dad’s middle name and the name of Dad’s uncle, who gave him the information to find his birth mother. That uncle, is the grandfather of my second cousin who we are staying with now. I back-packed down to London with Lydia, to stay with my brother and sister-in-law, fresh back from honeymoon and we had a lovely couple of days seeing family again and meeting my tiny new nephew.

I won't lie - I prefer Copenhagen metros to the London underground!

Managing a solo parenting trip to London, made the solo parent flight back to Copenhagen very smooth. A sticker book and endless snacks got us through and asking for help with carrying heavy loads. And here we are, back together in Copenhagen, ready to start the next chapter of our adventure. We feel very lucky to have seen so much of our friends and family during August and take stock on everything we’ve achieved. We feel ready to be back and make our new apartment home. Rich is settling into his new job and has a company car (still getting used to Copenhagen parking rules!) We’ve finally invested in a family bike, after selling my car back in England. And we have signed a two-year contract with a one-year break clause on our apartment so no more packing up for a while! We just need to furnish the place…and we thought we’d host a party for Lydia’s 2nd birthday three days after moving in, because you know, we like a challenge and we like to have fun. So bring it on 🙂 xxx

 

This is one overdue blog post! I have missed updating you all on all things Danish but life suddenly got quite busy. Lydia, work, language classes and some super fun visits from friends and family, haven’t left much time for blogging. If I have any time left at the end of the day, which tends to be 9pm, going on Lydia’s recent bedtimes, I tend to choose to sleep. If I had one of those Trainspotting t-shirts from back in the day, mine would be amended to ‘Choose Sleep.’

So it’s about time you had an update, and we’ve hit some pretty big settling in wins lately. So here we go…

1. We have both started our Danish language lessons.

It’s so nice to use parts of my brain that have been in slumber since school and feel like I’m really challenging it. And even though I haven’t had many lessons, I can now pick out words I here in every day life and that’s a huge settling in win.  Rich and I are in separate schools, as one of us needs to look after Lydia, so Rich has been going on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and I’ve been going on Monday and Wednesday evenings. My school, called Studieskolen is quite hardcore it would appear. Lessons are 5.30pm-9pm and there’s a lot of homework. I had to actually be interviewed to get onto the course, which involved an English grammar test, that I feared I’d failed after forgetting what an ‘article’ was. Embarrassed English Lit graduate. Then I had to translate Danish even though I hadn’t had any lessons. Perhaps they were testing I had some sort of brain up there?! Anyway, I got on the course and my first lesson came after a 24 hour flight back from San Diego. I looked a little spaced out to my new classmates. I’d like to say that look has changed, but as a mummy to a toddler who never sleeps, I don’t think it has. No one else in the class has a child, which is my reason for being the one who never does their homework on time. Richie’s lessons have been more relaxed, finishing at an early 8pm. His school was called Clavis. I say ‘was’ because halfway through his module, he received a letter from the government informing him that his language school was closing. The students found out before the teachers and just like that, before even finishing the module, his class was dismissed and told to enrol at a new school. There are now three language schools left to choose from in Copenhagen, compared to the original six, because the government are no longer funding those that teach ‘labour market-related Danish.’ The rumour on the language school circuit, is that it’s the beginning of the phasing out of free language classes altogether. Whether that is true or not, I have no idea, but we are extremely grateful to be learning while we can. Rich will start his new school in September, and I will continue with my classes after a summer break. I will keep you updated on all things Danish language and how difficult the pronunciation is! Right now, my only aim is to converse with toddlers. And that, I am beginning to achieve. Win win!

Standard language text book image. Standard swotty Emma notes.
This image is so very accurate.

2. Keeping with the theme of Danish – Lydia can speak some of the language!

Aged 21 months, Lydia can count to ten in Danish – not always in the right order and sometimes mixed with a bit of English, but she can do it. Eight ‘otte’ and ten ‘ti’, are her favourite numbers. She also says ‘vi ses’, which is ‘see you’, ‘hi hi’, which is ‘bye’ and the word that gets the most use at the moment, ‘nej’ which means ‘no’. I think she’s probably saying other words that she’s picked up at nursery but I wouldn’t know. A mum told me last week she was saying peekaboo to me in Danish. I thought she was doing a poo.

3. Lydia is in Danish nursery – vuggustue.

She started at the beginning of June and settled in after just a week of building up from one hour to five. It was heart wrenching, just as it was when she started nursery in England. I’ve personally found nursery the hardest part of parenthood so far. Thankfully, it didn’t take Lydia long before she was running in to greet her friends. Perhaps because she was older, this time at 20 months, rather than 12 months when she started in England, but it was a much smoother transition. The nursery gave me photos and names of everyone in her class, as well as a laminated sheet of Danish vocab they would be saying to her during the day, so I could repeat it at home. Lyds knows all her nursery friends’ names by heart – Sophus, Viggo, Jens Peter, Clara, Christian, Daniel…I won’t list them all as there a quite a few. And not quite as many adults. This is the Danish way it seems. It’s laid back, and then some. It has and still is, taking me a bit of time to adjust to it. Lydia is happy, I can tell, it’s just poor Rich and I who are left a little in the dark as to what she actually does there. The motto of a lot of Danish nurseries, is no news is good news. In England I was given a sheet of paper at the end of each day, telling me exactly what Lydia ate, how many nappy changes she had, what made her laugh, what made her sad and a development ‘test’ to check she was reaching milestones in social and physical development. The end of a nursery day here, consists of me asking:

“How has she been today?”

“Fine. Vi ses i morgen!”

We get updated via an app with photos of what the children are doing each day and I know they will text me if Lydia is having a bad day. It’s just a different kind of approach that I’m getting used to. Yesterday I logged into the app to see photos of them building a camp fire in the playground. You know, like you do with under twos! Lyds is happy and healthy so we are just trying to go with the Danish flow.

4. I got a work project that took me to San Diego.

I had never been to San Diego before and even though I was in the air for longer than I was on the ground, it was so much fun to work with a Californian crew,  produce something different and briefly see some of San Diego. Watching flight films all by myself, was also a huge novelty! (I, Daniel Blake by far the stand out.).  I’d never left Lydia for longer than a night, so being away for three nights and four days, did make me have a little cry when I said goodbye. Yes, this is how I am now. You give me San Diego filming fun, I give you tears.

6. Summer has arrived in Copenhagen.

And wow what a city it becomes. It took a while. Back in May, while England was basking in a heat wave, here in Copenhagen it was pretty darn cold. Rich did actually ask at one point, whether we’d moved to a country where you can never take off your coat and kids have balaclavas sewn onto them. But by the end of May, we were officially out of winter and we’ve enjoyed some gorgeous summer days. Blog posts about day trips, visitors and a minibreak are to follow. As you can see, we’ve discovered quite a few places and all of them are on our doorstep. The beauty of Copenhagen.

Belle Vue beach in Klampenborg
Hellerup
Frederiskberg Have
Islands Brygge
Christianshavn
Nyhavn

7. Visitors

As mentioned above, we have enjoyed some lovely visits from friends and Richie’s parents. We’ve also had two trips to see my grandparents and aunt and uncle in Jutland, including a lovely four days on the island Rømø, where my grandparents have a summer house. My parents. sister Izzy and her boyfriend Dan also came out to join us there. After five months away from them, it was so lovely to catch up and Lydia was in her element.  Rømø is where we have spent most summer holidays since I was at school, so it is always a special time for all of us. I’ll tell you all about it in another post.

8. And the best win for last. Rich got a job….and then he got a better job!

You probably noticed in the networking article I wrote back in May, that I casually mentioned, what we had all been waiting for….Rich got a job! Now I didn’t go all bells and whistles about it on here because a) it was a temporary job and b) we were waiting until the contract was signed, after a previous experience where Rich was offered a job and then the company folded. That aside, we were so relieved when it all came through, thanks to Richie’s friend at his language school. And it timed just as Lydia was about to start nursery. The job was and still is, cleaning hire cars, checking for damage, filling in paper work and driving them to an allotted space. Repeat. 8 hours on a shift rota. Part of my brain thought, eek – Rich is a business graduate with nearly 10 years experience working in sales and he’s having to clean cars. But it’s a job, in a country where you don’t speak the language and Rich has really enjoyed working there; he’s met people from all over the world and made new friends. They all have their own story to tell, of how they ended up washing cars in Copenhagen.

The day Rich signed his contract for the hire car job, he got a phone call out of the blue. A global tiles company were on the look out for a Scandinavia Sales Manager and a contact Rich had made during his networking, had put him forward for the role. Richie’s work in the U.K. involved selling tiles, so this was a perfect job and actually part of his career progression. One week later, someone from the company flew out to interview Rich at Copenhagen Airport. He was told there was one other person in the running for the job at this point, and he spoke Swedish. We know how this ends, we thought, yet we hoped differently. One week later, while Rich was on his way to his first late shift, he got the call. He was their new Scandinavia sales manager. He’d done it! Eight months after his first Danish application back in October, Rich had made it happen. Interviews, meetings, networking events, application after application and that small matter of a relocation – it had paid off. Those cars got the best clean of their lives that day.

Rich starts his new role on 1st September and a new chapter in the Danish adventure begins. It also coincides with the time we move apartments (not actually found one yet) and comes just after our first trip back to England in August (to attend four weddings-yes four). So it really will feel like we’re starting afresh, but in a settled kind of way.

When the sun is shining down on you...

Six months on…

This new chapter is probably the point most people begin their journey of living abroad – with jobs sorted, a place to live and nursery set up. We have definitely taken the road less travelled, working it out as we go along with a dollop of family-belief, and sense of adventure. It’s not been easy. May and June were both months where we had to have conversations about how long we could sustain living here if the right job didn’t come along, and we discussed all our back up plans, including the date we would go home. On top of this, we really felt the gap of grandparent support when we got about three full night’s sleep during the month of May, and then June brought us hand, foot and mouth disease. Cue a screaming Lydia, rather frazzled parents, a call to Danish 111, a knock at the door from a concerned neighbour, ending in lullabies from Richie’s mum via Facetime for Lydia but quite frankly I think we all needed it. They have been testing times but we made it. We’ve constantly got each other’s backs, checking the other is still ok doing this, ready for the next stage and still happy. And here we are, at Settling In Level Three, nearly six months into Danish living and so excited and grateful we have got more to come. There’s so much more to say, so much more to learn. I look forward to keeping you with us as we progress on our Danish dream. x

For those that missed it, this is the article I wrote for the online paper The Local, Denmark about networking two weeks ago. Where two weeks have gone I do not know. Well actually I do know – working, Lydia playing (day and night) and nursery settling in! I will do a full update on our Copenhagen lives soon, I promise. For now, here’s a little insight into how I’ve found networking in a new country.

Lydia's lovely new bike to grow into.

Just after I wrote the article, our current landlord came by to give us his daughter’s old bike to use when Lydia is older. It’s these acts of kindness that really make a difference to how you integrate into a new place. It keeps you bobbing along when obstacles come your way. Living in a new country can make the every day simple tasks quite tiring because of translating, not quite understanding protocols and just inexperience. Only yesterday I was staring at our communal tumble dryer wondering why, for the second attempt and numerous google translations of the settings, our clothes were still damp. So if you add a few bigger obstacles into the mix and a dose of sleep deprivation; your bobbing along can soon turn into treading water. *

* Treading water for me =  massive effort and a bit of a panicked look. I only ever got my 10 metres.

My point is, aside from my poor swimming metaphor, is that goodwill gestures are vital. Not just for people who are new to an area, but in life. Never underestimate them because if you can keep people afloat, they can go on to thrive.

 

The Local, Denmark, 22nd May 2017 

Networking. A word I used to shudder at. Alone in a crowded room, lurking on the periphery of a group deep in conversation, sipping cheap wine while smiling meaningfully at a conversation you can’t hear. All the while channelling that song from La La Land…

“Someone in the crowd,

Could be the one you need to know.

The one to finally lift you off the ground.”

As in the film; the reality is that you spend most of your time in the loo.

But since moving to Copenhagen three (*eek it’s now four since this was published!) months ago, I have started to view networking differently. It doesn’t involve awkwardness, it doesn’t pin all hopes on one meeting but it does, slowly but surely start lifting you off the expat ground.

Neighbours

It started with asking our first landlords for a list of places we could take our one year-old daughter Lydia while we got settled.

They left us a four-page document, a cuddly toy present (for Lydia, not us) and their contact details, if we had any more questions. Two-weeks into moving, we knocked on our neighbour’s door introducing ourselves. This led to being left a lovely note on our gate, inviting us to their house, where we were treated to pastries, coffee and most of all a genuine friendship.

The card left on our gate by our new neighbours.
The card left on our gate by our new neighbours.

They offered us a stop-gap place to stay when our two-month rent was up, they contacted friends to help us find work, they even translated our mail. When we moved, our new landlords were equally as welcoming; inviting us over for coffee (we end up drinking a lot of it over here), and recommending local nurseries.

 

Saying hello

Lydia will knock on windows to get a response to her waves.

Having a toddler who likes to wave and say hello to anyone passing, has been a gateway to many conversations. Now I’m not saying, we all need to wave at strangers in the street to find out information, tempted as I am to try it. But being present in the moment and open to smiling/helping someone off the bus/giving a little more information about yourself, can really lead to some fruitful conversations.

Lydia’s productive waving started on our flight out here, when we met a mum from England, who has lived in Copenhagen for seven years. As I write this, I’m about to go for an evening drink and catch up with her. A nanny looking after Danish children gave my husband a list of fun places to take Lydia, as well as money-saving tips and apps. A Danish family we met at a Fastelavn festival, offered their house for us to rent over the summer. And a Dad I met in our local park on a day I was feeling homesick, turned out to come from a place 30 minutes from our home in England. We swapped numbers in case we ever need adult conversation on the park run again.

Work

Kaffe og kage, available around every corner in Copenhagen.

As a freelancer, meeting people for coffees to discuss potential projects is how I get work. I didn’t realise this was also the most successful technique for getting a permanent job in Copenhagen. Employers like to know people who know you, however tenuous it might be. As a result, I have been blown away by the number of people – Danes and expats – who have gone through their contacts list to try and think of people that my husband and I can approach for more work. When my husband joined his Danish language class, the first lesson was about what you did for a living. He was the only one who needed the translation for ‘job-seeker.’ As a result, people in his class came forward with advice and contacts. Through that, he now has a temporary full-time job. It’s not a dream job but it’s work and it’s the first concrete offer after six months of applications. The Power Job Seekers group is another form of networking that has been a big help to him. It’s a weekly group, run by job-seeking volunteers, who invite employers to give presentations and follow it up with a workshop. Here people can learn tips about making Danish CVs, practice interview techniques and most importantly, give each other the confidence to keep going.

Social Media

Facebook and Meetup provide an abundance of groups where you can share information and meet new people. I never thought I’d be someone that used social media to make new friends. I’m that wave and say hello type of person. We also have some family in Copenhagen and Jutland so we are not completely alone. Yet social media has made moving to a new country so inclusive. Wondering where to buy new shoes for your toddler? Post it on a group and you’ll get a few replies within minutes. Struggling to work out how to send a parcel – someone there will have the answer instantly or recommend a useful blog. Want to meet up over the Easter weekend…wait, you’ve already been invited to an event. So there we were, on Easter Sunday afternoon, at someone’s house we had never met. A young family had put on an Easter egg hunt and picnic for other people, like us, to feel welcome on what’s traditionally a family day. Not only did it feel completely normal, it was enjoyable. We were inspired to hear why everyone ended up here in Denmark and we now have a new circle of friends.

Summary

So for me, this is what networking now means. It isn’t searching through a crowd for someone to present you with a golden ticket. It’s making an effort, each day, to meet someone new, learn something different and start building up a new network of information, of friends, of future colleagues. It’s a network to help build your new chapter of life in a different country. And if this type of networking has taught me anything, it’s to never underestimate your goodwill gestures. That smile, that tip about the best playground, that number of the prospective employer and that invitation; that is what ultimately lifts you off the ground.

This blog post is all about the logistics of setting up in Denmark and how we did it, as EU members. Just as we finished all our expat admin four weeks ago, Article 50 was triggered for Britain to leave the EU. 20 days later, a snap general election was called. So who knows what the future holds. Without getting too political, all I will say is that being part of the EU has made our move and transition here smooth and straight forward and we are very grateful. I’m sure Rich would like to say a lot more about the current state of affairs in UK politics but I’ll leave that for his family and friends 😉

Before I begin, remember how I’m half Danish. Well I did wonder if that gave me any sort of ‘Pass Go’ card. In my research I found out that if one of your parents is a Danish national, even if you, the child has never lived in the country, you are automatically Danish nationals as well. But…unless you move to Denmark by the age of 22, or claim you’ve got an association with the country by this age, you lose that nationality. Nooo…ten years too late I thought! But actually it isn’t that simple in my case because Dad, although born in Denmark to Danish parents, became a British citizen through his adoption process. His adopted mum was Danish, his adopted Dad British and they always lived in England. So the upshot is that I have to apply to become a Danish resident just the same as anyone else coming from the EU without Danish connections.

So here is the list of what we did, to get it signed and sealed that we could live here properly.

Register as a Danish resident

As a member of the EU, you can stay in Denmark for leisure/holiday for up to three months and you can stay up to six months if you are job-seeking. It is after this time that you must register as a resident if you want to stay longer. You can of course do this as soon as you arrive, if that’s your intention.

So to apply for Danish residency as an EU member, you need to meet one of these criteria:

  • you’re in paid employment in Denmark
  • you’re self-employed in Denmark
  • you provide services in Denmark
  • you’re a retired worker, retired self-employed person or retired service provider in Denmark
  • you’ve been seconded to Denmark
  • you’re a student in Denmark
  • you can prove you can finance your stay in Denmark

You can’t apply to be a resident until you’re actually in the country as you need to physically provide your documents. You will need your passport, one passport photo and your proof of meeting one of the criteria above, along with a form which you can print off from the website: http://www.statsforvaltningen.dk

Other useful websites are www.nyidanmark.dk and www.workindenmark.dk

So once you’ve got to Denmark with all your documents, you can go and register at the Statsforvaltningen (State Administration), or International Citizen Service (ICS). We went to the Statsforvaltningen. We waited for about an hour to been seen and then it was very straightforward to process the documents. Two weeks later, we were sent our registration certificate through the post.

CPR number

So you’ve got your registration certificate and you’re a Danish resident. But this doesn’t really mean anything without a CPR number, which is your personal ID. This gives you access to free Danish healthcare, subsidised daycare, free Danish lessons, a Danish bank account etc etc. Some landlords for long-term rentals also require you to have your CPR number.

Now you need to take a trip to the International Citizen Service (ICS). Our letter told us we could go to our local municipality. After two metro journeys and waiting in the queue there, we were told this was only for NemID (see below what that is). Joys. Another trip and another hour’s queue, we were ready to get our CPR numbers, at the right place of ICS.

This time you need your residence certificate, passport, proof of address in Copenhagen, marriage certificate if married and children’s birth certificates, if you have kids. This process takes a bit longer. Luckily there was a kind worker on hand to bribe Lydia with a banana and croissant. Just when I thought we were done, an error was spotted. My date of birth on the residency certificate had been printed incorrectly. Oh never mind I thought, my passport clearly has the right date of birth, as well as my marriage certificate, so this can be amended right? Wrong. Well it can be amended but that’s down to me. It meant a trip back to Statsforvaltningen (a 30 minute bus trip from our house), another hour’s queue, to get them to amend their mistake, and then a metro journey to return to International Citizen Service with the updated version, to process it all again. Oh and because on paper, the mum has the main responsibility of the child, Lydia couldn’t get her CPR number until I’d done this. This was a “let it go, let it goooo” moment after a tedious trek and queue of a day, with Lydia in tow. So two days later I did it all again, taking poor Lyds with me while Rich job-searched. Luckily I managed to queue jump at the ICS and saw the same lady. Just as well because I didn’t realised the office closed at 2pm and I arrived at 1.50pm. And then hurrah, we had our CPR numbers instantly, a ‘Welcome to Copenhagen’ pack and were assigned a GP.

I have recently discovered that you can actually get both the residency certificate and CPR number at International Citizen Service. I wish I had known this. If you manage it correctly and queue before the office opens at 10am, you can book a slot to get your registration certificate processed that same day and then book another slot to get your CPR number later in the day, as well as your tax card. Which makes me wonder even more, why the error on my residence certificate couldn’t be corrected when I was applying for my CPR. (“Let it goooo!”) Anyway, there’s more info here.

NemID

This is your key to online Denmark. You can order your NemID once you’ve got your CPR number and it can be done at the same CPR appointment at the International Citizen Service (make sure you ask for it), or you can go to your local municipality, along with your CPR number. You’re given a user ID and a code card is sent to you about two weeks later.

Your NemID is your Danish online profile and you need it to access things like online phone contracts, travel card top ups, online banking, tax returns, VAT, anything public-authority related, as well as your digital mail. Everyone is expected to have a NemID and Digital Mail, unless you give a reason why you can’t.

Two weeks after asking for your NemID, you’ll receive three small paper cards in the post, each filled with 44 codes.  Every time you log in to something like online banking, you enter your NemID (which is a username and password you set up on registration) and then you fill in a code. You’re given the first four numbers of that code, you then have to find that sequence (across 44 numbers x 3 cards) and fill in the remaining six numbers. You do this for every online process. The same code will never be used more than once and the system automatically sends you new cards when you’ve used all the codes. It makes for some blurry eyes but you soon get used to it. Nem is meant to stand for ‘easy’ but I’ve heard many Danes say it is anything but.

Digital Mail

You need NemID to set up your digital mail. You receive all post from public authorities via digital mail rather than paper. So for example I’ve had digital mail about our GP and Lydia’s nursery place and application. It’s pretty important so make sure you set it up. You can get alerted to a new digital mail through your personal email address and text (if you have a Danish number).

Health card

About two weeks after getting your CPR number and being assigned a GP at the same time, you get your health card through the post. This has your name, address and CPR number on it, which acts as an ID so keep it in your wallet. It was what I got asked for when I was fined on the bus and the ticket man zapped it and got all my info (sad face).

Bank Account

You need your health card to open your bank account. Thanks to fellow expats who told us this as, it would never have occurred to me to wait for a health card before joining yet another queue in a bank. We picked Nordea as a bank, only because I see branches everywhere and in Denmark, you’re charged for taking cash out of an ATM that isn’t from your own bank. When you open your account(s), you need to assign a Nemkonto to your main account (the bank should initiate this but worth checking). This is linked like the digital mail, so the public authorities know where to pay in money like child benefit pay etc.

You are also charged about £20 a year for having a debit card or credit card. We had to order these ourselves online and they took two weeks to then arrive. And we were sent a debit card, not a Dankort which we asked for and were advised to get. I’m not fully sure of the difference yet but when I tried to create a direct debit scheme for my Rejsekort, it asked for a Dankort, so I need to ask the bank about this but for now we are using the debit cards.  The time between arriving in Denmark, getting registered, being assigned our CPR numbers, getting health cards, opening bank accounts and then getting bank cards delivered, was seven weeks.

Travel card/Rejsekort

I’m still navigating this system as I go along. Apparently the Rejsekort, which is like the London Oyster card, was only introduced to Copenhagen very recently and is still experiencing some problems. The resident Rejsekort gives you the best price on public transport (buses, metros and s-togs, which are the trains.) So I waited for my CPR number before getting one and went to Copenhagen Central Station to queue (again!) and get it, as I hadn’t sorted my NemID to order online. There are various options and I went with the Travel Map flex, which means I can lend it to friends or family to use. The monthly passes are also very good if you know what zones you travel across on a regular basis. I’ve recently discovered there’s an app called mobilbilleter, where you can pay for trips as you go, or top up with credit for multiple journeys. The bonus of this, is that you don’t have to remember to swipe your Rejsekort at the start and end of your journeys or between modes of transport. Unlike in London, there aren’t ticket barriers here, so it’s easy to forget to check out on your card. You’re then charged as if you’ve continued travelling around the whole of Copenhagen for the day. Rich learnt this the hard way. Twice.  If you have that ‘doh’ moment soon after you’ve left the station/bus, you can check out using the app Check Udvej, which will save you some money.

And then there’s the old fashioned option of just paying for a day ticket or single ticket at the machine/on the bus. But you need Danish kroner in coins to do this, or a bank card for the metro/s-tog, which of course will charge you the exchange rate if you haven’t got your Danish bank card, and it’s not the most cost-effective option.

If you’re a visitor, I’d recommend mobilbilleter or getting a visitor Rejsekort, which is available at Copenhagen Central Station and various other station machines. If you’re with a Danish friend/family member, they can add you to their journey on their own Rejsekort, but remember this can only be done for the metro and s-tog and not the bus, as we discovered to our detriment with the bus fine scenario!

On top of this, I’ve heard you are charged to take a bike on the s-tog but not the metro. How this works, I don’t know, as we are not yet bike owners. As soon as we are, I’ll be posting all about it 🙂 And maybe the conclusion of this travel-ticket-purchasing system, is to just get a bike!

Danish Language Courses

When you get your CPR number, you are entitled to 250 hours of Danish language lessons completely free, which is an amazing opportunity to learn the language. The classes are divided into five modules of 50 hours with an exam at the end of each section. You have 18 months to complete your 250 hours of Intro Dansk, which starts the day you sign up. Once you have completed this within 18 months, you can then progress to The Danish Language Training Programme, which gives you another 3-3.5 years of free language lessons. When you have your CPR number, you can choose a language school and class time that suits you best. There can be a bit of a wait for a class to fill up and start a new module. I am still waiting for mine but Rich has started his evening classes and is busy practising! But I’m sadly realising that my brain doesn’t hold new information like it used to. I hope this is just because of the many plates I have spinning now I’m a mum, freelancer and new expat, as opposed to just getting a bit thick.

Danish language homework.

Phone contracts

There are loads to choose from but for a sim only pay-as-you go, Lyca is the recommended provider and is what Rich has. My British phone contract runs until October and it isn’t worth the charge of leaving it early, when I get EU calls and texts included in my package, so I still have a British number. It hasn’t stopped me doing anything but it doesn’t make me feel very Danish. Other phone contracts that have been recommended to me are Fullrate, Oister, Tjeep and 3.

Nurseries

Once you’ve got a CPR number, you can get on the waiting list for a nursery. We had to wait until we knew where we were going to be living after our two-month rent was up, as I didn’t want to swap nurseries. Waiting lists are long but the rule is, you will get something within two months. It may not be your first choice of nursery and it may be a childminder, but you will get something. You are also assigned a ‘movers spot,’ which helps you jump up the waiting list, if you’ve recently moved to the area and need a place asap. I’ll dedicate a whole post to nurseries as there’s a lot to say. But after looking around seven, I got a movers spot for my second favourite place and had to wait two months, which is now one month away. My favourite nursery had a six-month waiting list; without a movers spot it would have been at least a year. So get on the list early is my advice.

Housing

It is possible to rent in Denmark without being registered and it then gives you an address to get yourself set up.  There’s also the option of Airbnb for somewhere short-term, while you settle and look at long-term rentals.

I have found both our places (two month and six month contracts) through the website Lejebolig. Both times have been through private landlords (families) for fully furnished places. This has suited our situation perfectly because we are still in a little bit of limbo regarding Richie’s work situation. Many people have an opinion on renting in Copenhagen. The long-term rental market is competitive and generally requires at least three months’ rent for a deposit plus a month’s rent in advance, which is a LOT. And some landlords require a CPR number. I know we have been lucky so far and haven’t had to meet that criteria. But it did take a lot of research and looking at the websites a few times a day, to get in there first when something suitable came up. For both our places, I rang the landlords within hours of the properties being advertised.

Yippee!

And then you’re done! (Minus what I did to set up as a freelancer but there’s only so many ‘to-dos’ a blog post can take.)

It took us about seven weeks to complete all of the above, which was when it was time to move to house number two! Thankfully, moving house is when the online identity NemID comes into its own. I just had to fill in one form at borger.dk for all three of us and everything got updated. You have to register your new address no later than five days after moving, otherwise you’ll get fined. Danish efficiency!

So there you have it. Turning a thought about moving abroad, into a reality, can really be done. We’d done our research before moving but we also learnt a lot along the way, so I hope this helps or inspires others.

When I first asked my younger sister Izzy about my Denmark idea, and whether I was a bit mad, her response really stuck with me. In her laid-back, twenty-something living in London kind of way, she replied:

“It’s just a bunch of logistics Em.”

And you know what Izzy; it really is.

 

I hope everyone has enjoyed the Easter break and long weekend. I love Easter. It has always been a time I’ve spent with my family – both Richie’s and mine. So I knew, unless we had some plans, it could potentially be a time I would become homesick. I’m happy to say, this didn’t happen and we thoroughly enjoyed our first Påske!

Five-day break

Firstly, to make Danish Easter even more welcoming, the Danes include Maundy Thursday (Skætorsdag) as a bank holiday so it’s a five-day break. Great thinking Denmark.

Shut up shop

During this time, most places shut. You won’t find cafes trading as usual or the supermarkets open. So everyone stocks up on supplies. It’s the same at Christmas apparently. There are occasional supermarkets open but you’ll have to search. Despite us doing a big shop on Wednesday, we ran out of milk by Monday. I found a Netto open and walked in to find chaos. Everyone was in there. There were no baskets or trolleys left, most of the shelves were empty and people were grabbing the last items off the shelves. It was not an experience I’d want to repeat, with a huge pushchair in tow. Let’s just say bread was used to bribe Lydia as I had to mount the bottom shelves just to squeeze through the crowds. I also learnt I’m not pronouncing ‘brød’ (bread) correctly. When said bread fell on the floor and I couldn’t reach it, I got very confused looks as I said ‘brød’ and pointed. I say it like bru(l). The ‘d’ is is pronounced like a non existent ‘l’, where your tongue sits between a ‘d’ and an ‘l’. The ø is like uu. Basically it feels like you’re just about to throw up and splutter out a br….u..l..d… (shh i didn’t say d). Except this isn’t working for me so I need a new technique.

Church

Coming from a family of Bishop Dad and Vicar Mum, church featured a lot in my childhood Easters. As an adult, I haven’t attended church as much and the reality of our Easter Day morning here, was catching up on sleep after a very broken night with Lydia. Denmark is a Christian country and has a state church called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark. But it seems church-going across the Easter period in Denmark, isn’t the reason for the five-day break or shops shutting down. According to a national survey taken in 2000; 48% of Danes think spending time with the family is particularly important during Easter; 37% regard it as a holiday; 10% mentioned ‘attending Church’ and ‘the Christian message’ as the main feature of Easter. (http://denmark.dk/en/meet-the-danes/traditions/easter)

Påskefrokost – Easter lunch.

My Dad’s cousin Anne, lives in a wonderful apartment in Christianshavn. On Good Friday (Langfredag), she hosted a traditional Easter lunch, which in Danish is called Påskefrokost. It includes bread, eggs, salmon, prawns, herring, lamb, frikadeller (meatballs) and salad, all washed down with beer and snaps with cheese, coffee and chocolates to finish. It was delicious!

Anne also hosted the occasion for us to meet more of my extended family, including second cousins who I haven’t seen since I was about 12. We all now have little girls around the same age so it was lovely to see them all playing together and to reconnect with my Danish relations. We came home filled with Danish food and joy.

Gækkebrev

Although we didn’t do this with the family, it is a standard Danish activity for children to make a gækkebrev. This is a snowflake paper cut-out, with a poem written in it. The child doesn’t sign the letter but instead puts dots for each letter of their name. The recipient then has to guess who sent them the letter. If they guess right, they receive a chocolate egg from the sender. If they can’t guess, they have to give the sender a chocolate egg. It’s a tradition dating back to the 1800s and during the Easter break, children (and adults) can have fun making them at the National Museum in Copenhagen.

Easter egg hunts

Easter would not be complete without an Easter egg hunt and yes they do have this in Denmark. Across Copenhagen, there have been egg-hunting events over the Easter break, including at The Frilands Museum and Carlsberg Visitors Centre.

Earlier in the week, Lyds and I went to an Easter-egg hunt organised by Danielle, who I first met at Manchester Airport when we were flying out to move here. She is from Bath and has lived in Copenhagen for seven years. We have kept in touch and it was so lovely to meet up and for Lydia to meet other bi-lingual toddlers in the making!

On Easter Sunday, all three of us went along to an Easter egg hunt organised by an Expat Group we are part of on Facebook. This was held at one of the group member’s houses and a chance for families to meet up, eat food and fellow expat children to play/hunt eggs. I never thought I’d be one of those people who joins a Facebook group to make friends but the Copenhagen Expats has been so helpful and welcoming and doesn’t really feel like that. We have met up with a few of the group before and everyone instantly clicked because we are all in that unique same boat. I’m actually quite bowled over by the fact someone would open up their house to host on Easter Sunday to people they barely know, all so we could feel part of a new different family. We enjoyed the afternoon sun, exchanged stories, swapped advice and made some lovely new friends in the process.

Bank Holiday Monday

What do you do with that extra day after all the chocolate has been consumed? In our case, Rich had to prepare for an interview on Tuesday so I had a walk and play in the park with Lydia after discovering the Netto chaos. From our local parks of Søndermarken and Frederiksberg Have, there are look-out points to Copenhagen Zoo. Yes really, that photo is from a stroll in the park. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of saying “let’s take a walk to see the elephants/giraffes, zebras.” Post on our new area will come soon.

This is really the view from the park.

All this however wasn’t enough excitement for Lydia’s day. As Rich was reading her bedtime stories, she poked him in the eye, so deeply, he couldn’t open it and was in a lot of pain. I can now inform you the Danish 111 system (1813) is very efficient, as is A&E. After speaking to someone on 1813, Rich got a taxi to hospital at 8.30pm, where they were phoned through to expect him, and he was home with an eye patch by 9.45pm. His eye is scratched and he has to use a special cream for the next four days. The eye patch can be taken off tomorrow (Tuesday) just in time for his interview.

Life is never dull around here. Hence still writing a blog post at midnight.

Happy Easter/back to work after Easter everyone! x